July 07, 2022 by Anna-Bet Stemmet
Wondering how to plan a birthday party without the stress? Step right this way, we’ve got you covered. We love to plan a birthday party and when you are hosting one at home for your own birthday the trick is to keep everything as stress-free as possible.
So, to help you pave the way for a fun lead-up to the celebration of your most recent trip around the sun, we’ve pulled together some insider birthday party planning ideas that will set you up for success from the word go.
Ready, set, PLAN!
When should you start planning a party?
A good rule of thumb is to start planning at least three months prior to hosting the event. This way you can give your guests plenty of warning to keep the date available. It also takes the pressure off in terms of liaising with suppliers, etc.
However, this does not mean you cannot pull it off in a month, or even a week if you have to. The smaller the time frame, the higher the angst levels are likely to be, but with enough motivation and support, a short-notice party can also be very successful.
What are the important things to remember when planning a party?
You know what they say – proper planning prevents poor performance. This is why we always follow this tried-and-tested organizational framework:
When it comes to event planning for birthday parties, every seasoned professional will tell you that you need to iron out that budget first. Sit down and decide how much you are able to spend on your birthday party.
Now, have a think about friends and family members you have who might have a skill they would be willing to contribute towards your party for free, or in lieu of a gift. Of course, these would have to be people that would make it onto your guest list regardless of whether they could bring their DJ deck or help you to design online invitations…
NB! Reach out to them to see if they’d be keen to contribute to your birthday party in the way you had in mind before assuming they would.
Next, draw up a spreadsheet. If you are co-planning your birthday party with your partner or a helpful friend or two, make it a shareable online spreadsheet that everyone can access with permission. Use this spreadsheet to keep track of quotes and expenses as you go along so you don’t go over budget by accident.
Who’s invited? It’s your party and you get to invite all the people who make you feel like sunshine! Start up another spreadsheet, and make a list of everyone you’d like to attend. Add extra columns for partners, spouses, and/or children.
This is also a good time to decide whether you are hosting a party that will be open to kiddos if there are any peeps in your group of friends that have them… It’s nice to include the whole fam in an invitation, but it also means that you will need to cater for children in terms of food, drinks, and entertainment.
Whatever you choose, be up-front about the set-up straight off the bat. This way your guests can make an educated choice about whether they are able to attend or not. FYI, the same goes for smaller, super intimate birthday parties that are literally for you and like 5 – 10 members of your crew (no partners). Just be clear from the get-go.
3. Date & Time
When organizing birthday party timelines, it can be easy to get tangled in multiple people’s calendars and have-to-dos. After all, it’s only natural to want all your favorite people together for your birthday. However, nine times out of ten you will find that at least one of your fav humans will have something else going on on the exact date you have in mind.
This is when you have to remember that it’s your party, sweets. Choose the date that works for you, and your top three non-negotiables, e.g., your partner, your parent/s, and your bestie.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be on your actual birthday; it could be the weekend before or the weekend after. Or you may prefer to host it in the middle of the week to keep things on the tamer end of the spectrum… Whatever the case may be, make sure it works for you.
Once you’ve got the date pinned down, immediately send out a save the date so your guests can block it out on their calendar. You can always share the details of the party closer to the time; just get them booked for your event first.
4. Theme & Décor
When contemplating how to set up a birthday party at home, we like to take a step back and consider the things we already have. Make a list of all the vases, table runners, tablecloths, napkins, candle holders, and other bits and bobs you already have at home. Then use this as a starting-off point when you consider décor.
As for party themes, go easy on yourself friend. Party themes are a dime a dozen, and it tends to get even more confusing the deeper your Pinterest dive takes you. Stop and take a moment to consider what you are about. What brings you joy, buddy? Are you all about a certain decade, like the 60s or the 2000s? That’s a complete vibe right there.
Or perhaps you love the outdoors and want to go for an indoor jungle situation? Your favorite movie or series could also provide some inspo. Take a moment to feel out your current vibe (journal even, it helps!), and use that as a guideline to pinpoint your theme. Be your own bestie in this respect.
Once you’ve settled on the theme, and you have your list of stuff you already have at home, it’s time to fill in the blanks. Create a wish list of items you want to set the scene for your shindig, and then winnow down until you have the essentials. Reach out to suppliers for quotes, make your choice, pay the deposit, and keep tabs on your budget spreadsheet.
This particular article is about throwing a party at home, so for the sake of this vibe, the venue will be your house. However, this doesn’t mean you can tick off ‘venue’ on your planning list just yet. Here are a few things to consider:
- Notify your neighbors. If you live in a free-standing house, it’s as easy as getting in touch with the folks in the homes around yours. However, if you live in a block of flats or a security estate, you may need to read up on the rules of conduct and get approval from the Body Corporate if you are planning a larger party.
- Suss out parking. What’s the situation in terms of parking at your residence? If most of your guests tend to use e-hailing services you are in luck and there won’t be too much to consider. On the other hand, if most will drive themselves, you will need to get approval from your neighbors for on-street or in-estate parking.
- Consider your pet. If you have a pet at home, a loud(ish) party with lots of people might not be their cup of tea. On the other hand, they may love it! If you do have a skittish animal in your care, consider how you want to proceed – perhaps book them in at a doggy care or have someone they know well take care of them offsite for the duration of the event.
Learn more: Tailgate Party Ultimate Guide (2023)
Send out your pretty invitations! Once your date, time, and venue are all sorted, it’s time to share the details with the folks who responded positively to your save the date. If certain guests have not responded to the save the date, now is also a good time to send them a gentle reminder to let you know what’s up.
Printed invitations are one way to go, and it adds a nice bit of old-school glamor to any occasion, but e-invites are very easy and affordable too. Decide which way you want to go, order the invites or the design, and send it out quick-sticks. Then keep track of your RSVPs on your guest list spreadsheet.
TIP: Always provide a date by which you expect to receive an RSVP so invite recipients realize how long they have to consider their schedules and let you know.
Ah, the food – the food and drink maketh the party in our opinion. The sky is the limit, so the trick lies in winnowing down. Here are a few questions to ask yourself while you do so:
- Do you want it to be a sit-down affair or a grazing situation?
- Will the food follow the theme? If so, how?
- Are you doing the catering yourself, or getting someone in?
- If you are getting a caterer, do they supply their crockery and cutlery, or do you need to hire this in as well?
- What do YOU want to have on your birthday?
Once you’ve decided, pay the caterer or put in the order for the ingredients and/or other essentials you’ll need to make the food, and remember to log the expense on your budget spreadsheet.
8. Drinks & Cocktails
Next up, drinks and cocktails. We love having a signature cocktail or two to welcome guests, and set the tone for a birthday party. This could include:
- Classic cocktails like a French 75 or Vodka Martini
- Fun and quirky drinks like a Baby Yoda or Squashed Frog
- Easy mocktails like a Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri or Rock Shandy
- Big-batch drinks like Watermelon Gin Cocktail or Bloody Mary
Other things to consider when deciding about drinks for your party is whether:
- Guests will help themselves or you will get some bar-folk to assist
- How to handle ongoing glass clean-up and whether you need to hire some in
- If guests will be allowed and/or encouraged to bring their own drinks
Once you’ve decided on drinks, pay your service provider or put in the order for the ingredients, glasses (and ice!) you’ll need, and remember to log the expense on your budget spreadsheet.
9. Games & Activities
Will you have games and activities at your party? This is another personal choice you need to make. If you are having a cohesive group of friends over who all know each other, it might not be necessary. On the other hand, if you are bringing together folks from various eras and ‘categories’ of your life, a few ice-breaker activities might be a welcome opportunity for everyone to mingle and meet.
A few options to consider include:
- Build-your-own food and drinks with an interactive element to get people talking and engaging
- Lawn games like Giant Jenga or Giant Chess
- Old-school games set up casino-style
- Pictionary or Charades
It all depends on your crowd and the things you know they will enjoy. So, take a little time to consider what would be fun for everyone, and perhaps do an opinion poll among your close friends to get some feedback.
10. Additional tips for party planning
Check Pinterest for party-planning checklists. If you love working according to a tick list, Pinterest is your friend. There are plenty of amazing itemized planning lists that have been developed by professional event planners that you can download and use to guide your own planning.
Rope in your friends. You don’t have to do everything yourself – get your friends and family to take over certain aspects of the do. For instance, you may have a cousin who is an ace at cocktail making and would love to organize all the drinks, or a friend who does amazing flower arrangements from foraged finds. Get them involved!
Remember to think about and schedule the breakdown. Always take care to plot out the aftermath of the party as well. If you are hosting at home, will you be doing all the clearing up yourself (not a vibe, TBH!), or are you going to get a few friends and family members to help you clean? If the latter is what you have in mind, reach out to them beforehand to get them on board.
There you have it – ten important things to bear in mind when you plan a birthday party at home. You’ve got this. Take a deep breath and dive right it; it’s going to be AMAZING.